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Why look at land in the Spring

Each time of the year offer advantages to looking at land.  From a buyer’s perspective, however, if you have the flexibility, I believe the Spring is the best time to look at land you are considering.  Why?  Because it is when the land will look it’s worse!  We all can look at something and get enamored when it has its best foot forward, but the true test is when everything shows.

So why Spring?  With the leaves off the trees you can see things you might not see with all the leaves on the trees.  Of course that is the case for half of the year, but Spring also is when the snow has just melted.  If there is a water problem, you can see it.

Of course, the idea would be to see the land in every season.  That may not be practical because Spring is the busiest time for land sales.

Call me to talk about the options I offer on the land I own.  I have several types of land for sale.   Tom Chadbourne – 207 653-9955

Land buying hints

When you are looking for land to buy, you should know the answers to these basic questions:

  • What is the purpose for the land:
    • primary home site,
    • vacation home,
    • weekend getaway,
    • current recreation to be used for future retirement or . . .
  • Important considerations for finding the right area for you:
    • Waterfront
    • View
    • Distance from stores, hospitals, . . .
    • Activities you want to be near at this location (golf, museums, skiing, lakes, hiking, . . .)
    • How big a lot do you want (more importantly, what do you want to accomplish with the size
  • Important considerations in choose a particular lot:
    • Soils
    • If views are important will you still be able to maintain the view years later
    • What is the cost of bringing utilities to your house site
    • If needed, is owner financing available and what should you look for with owner financing.

In other postings I  attempt to share with you my insights based on dealing with thousands of buyers when they have looked at land with me.  I come to this with my experience as a land developer in Western Maine.

Each post will attempt to cover a finite portion of the decision; thus I will address primary home sites in a separate post from one dealing with land for a vacation home.  Common issues like soils and utilities will be in general topics.

When people come to me to look at land they generally think they know what their purpose is.  When actually looking at the land, couples frequently then find they have different definitions as to their needs.  Two frequent discussions are what is privacy.  By looking at different locations I can help them better understand their needs an help them narrow their options down.  Some examples are:

  • Vacation home that will eventually be a retirement home:  The usual two locations that they look at are 
    • Frost Homestead, which is a convenant protected subdivision that is just outside of the village or Norway; thus offering a hospital, chain stores, lakeside park and movie theater. Frost offers beautiful views, a basket ball court and common tennis courts and walking trails.
    • Settler’s Knoll, which is only 8 miles away and is also covenant protected has an entirely different feel.  Located in the quintessential New England town of Waterford, Maine, it feels more remote.
  • If one is looking for a summer time getaway, one might choose Settler’s Knoll with its access to the water, White Mountain National Forest,  and 3 ski areas (Sunday River, Shawnee Peak and Mount Abram Ski Resort) or our Spruce Mountain lot that has seasonally access but feels VERY remote.
  • Other choices could include Woodbury Bluff which could be closer to work for the next several years, or Frost Homestead which is further away but more suited to their long term retirement interests.

All this can be considered by looking at several locations, even if you eventually decide that what I offer doesn’t meet your needs at all.

If you would like to talk to me about land, call me at 207 653-9955.  I’m Tom Chadbourne and I am the owner of each of these lots.

Deed restrictions and covenants

Should you be concerned about deed restrictions and covenants?  That depends on what you are looking for.  Most rural towns have limited restrictions; thus you can see a mobile home setting beside an elaborate home.  To many people that is a not a problem.  If you are one of those, then you should read any restrictions very carefully to make sure they don’t limit you from doing that which you wish.

On the other hand, if you are looking for a particular setting for your home and want to maintain that environment, it may be important to see what protections are offered.  It can be a fine balance between restrictions and what you want to do with your lands carefully check out what is offered.

Generally Waterford Properties offers restrictions that help protect the value of your property without being too onerous.  Some of our areas vary it what they offer but generally they include:

  • no mobile homes
  • no unregistered vehicles
  • limits of cutting up to 25% of the trees within a 5 year period (It is a shame to buy a nice wooded lot only to have your abutting neighbor strip their land)
  • you never have to build, but once you start the exterior must be completed and the grounds reshaped within one year (no tar paper shacks.)
  • lots can not be further divided
  • a home site can only have one single family home
  • no business can be operated that employs more than two people in addition to the home owners.
  • side line as well as front and rear setbacks
  • storage of recreation vehicles  must be stored out of sight of the road.

Some places require architectural committees and the like.  We didn’t didn’t feel that was necessary.

Carefully consider what your needs are before you buy.

Good luck and enjoy your new adventure.  Tom

Lot size

People frequently come to me saying that they want an “x” acre lot.  I like to rephrase it by asking what they are trying to achieve.  I do that because I feel it is important to know how your new home will “feel”.  Part of that will depend on the how large or small your lot feels.  I use the word “feel” because the physical size of the lot can be much different from how large or small the lot feels.  I have seen 10 acre lots that feel like they are less than an acre; I’ve seen 2 acre lots that seem much larger.

What makes the difference?  Location and orientation of the homes on adjacent lots, terrain, amount of trees nearby and lot layout has much to do with it.  It is also important to know what your neighbor can do on their land.  For example, my lots generally have a restriction of cutting no more than 25% of the trees over 6″ in diameter in a 5 year period of time.  If you want an open lot, buy an open lot.  But if you bought a nice, wooded lot and your neighbor can then strip their lot, you have lost what you were trying to have.  One customer told me about how the lot beside their home (which they had owned for 15 years) was suddenly stripped.  Not only did it kill the affect of their land, they had water and erosion problems as well.

Their is nothing wrong with an open lot.  Just make sure you can keep the setting you are trying to create.  I have open lots, lots that are private yet still feel “open” as well as wooded lots.

My point is, be sure to understand the feel you are trying to get.  If being close to town is important, yet privacy is also important, you can meet both of those needs.

Happy land hunting.  If you have any questions, even if doesn’t involve my land, feel free to give me a call.  I share thoughts with you.  Tom

General items to consider when buying land.

These thoughts on what to look for when buying a home site are a broad brush look.  See future posts for more detailed thoughts.

  • COST TO DEVELOP THE LOT –
    • UTILITIES – Are the utilities you want (power, cable, etc.) on the road beside your lot?  If not, how much will it cost to bring them to the lot?  Are there any extra fees that must be paid to the utility for the line extension up the road beside the land you are thinking of buying?
    • DRIVEWAY – Unless exceedingly long or have issues with wetlands, ledge, etc, the driveway cost shouldn’t be that much extra, but you should verify this.  Also, I have found that plowing a longer driveway doesn’t cost much more that plowing a shorter one because much of that cost is gigging back and forth in front on the house.
    • TYPE OF SOILS – Has there been a passing soils test near the location that your want to build?  Is there ledge?  (Some ledge is generally not too bad, but if you have to blast to put in the septic system and utilities plus the full foundation, you best be sure to know what the cost will be before buying.)  Will there be problems with water – either drainage or water table?
  • VIEWS – If views are what draw you to the lot, be sure you will still have that view 5, 10 or more years from now.  Depending on whether you are looking horizontally, downward or upward – generally figure you need to have 75 feet or so of vertical elevation to keep a view.  Some sellers cut the trees on land you will not be buying so it looks like a good view only to find later you can’t keep the view.  Protect yourself by making sure you own the land that affects the view or have an easement to maintain the view over that land.
  • PRIVACY – What is your need for privacy?  If it high, ensure that it can be maintained when someone builds next to your land.
  • ONGOING COSTS – Are there Association fees?  If so, how much are they.  How much are the taxes?
  • PROTECTION – In much of Maine, there are very few zoning laws.  If you want to maintain the value of your land, are there reasonable deed restrictions and by-laws to protect you while not causing you to spend more than your want to.  Are those restrictions enforced?  If you don’t want anyone telling you what to do, be sure there are not any covenants or deed restrictions.

Check our other posts and future posts for other helpful hints.

Click here to see the land I own and offer for sale.

Vacation homes for future retirement home

Many of our clients decide to buy land for their future retire and use it as a second home until they do retire.  This is a great way to plan for the future especially since expanded health and lifespans allow for an active retirement.

If you are considering this you may want to consider some of the following.  What activities will be most important to you in your retirement?  Are they compatible with the activities you like now?  If you will live there full time, will the distance to shopping, medical care, cultural activities, etc. be adequate for your needs or would you be better off traveling a little further for your activities.  With regard to our property, two examples of this would be a choice between Frost Homestead and Settlers Knoll.  Though they are only 8 miles apart, they are very different locations.  Frost is nearer to a local hospital and shopping.  Settlers feels more remote and has larger lots.  Both offer access to many outdoor activities.  Both are in quiet settings.  At the same time they each have a very distinct feel.

If you look at these two locations, they may help you better understand your various needs for both pre and post retirement

If you find this post helpful, check for other posts regarding buying land in Maine.

View lots

When you buy a view lot, be sure you get what your paying for.  Your view is very special to you and you paid a premium for it.  Unfortunately, some people buy a view only to lose their view in a very few years because trees grow to obstruct it or buildings are placed right in the way of your view.

The way to protect your view is to be sure you either own enough land to protect the view OR you have a view easement.   Protecting a view from tree growth depends on they type of trees.  A general rule of thumb I use is for a horizontal view, you must control the land that is less  75 (preferably 100) feet below you in the direction of your view.  If you are looking up at distance mountains, that can be less; if you are looking down at a valley or lake, it needs to be more.

The way I handle it with the land I sell is to offer view easements.  The buyer of the land that benefits from a view easement and the buyer who is subject to a view easement are told about the easement prior to purchasing their land.  Frequently the person who is subject to a view easement benefits from a different view easement.

Basically the easement allows the beneficiary of the easement the right to go on to the other persons land and cut trees.  They must give advance notice and they cannot leave a mess.  Frequently there is also included in this a restriction as to what can be build within the easement.

I make it a point of specifying what easements there are for a view lot.  If there isn’t a way to maintain a view, even though you can see one now, I either explain the issues or  don’t sell it as a view lot.  Check out Settlers Knoll and Frost Homestead as examples of lots with view easement.

If you wish to talk to me about this subject, give me a call at 207 653-9955.

I hope this has been helpful to you.  Tom Chadbourne

Looking for Land for Sale for a Primary Home Site

Primary home sites – things to consider.

  • LOCATION – How far do you want to commute?  Because there is generally less traffic in Maine, this question may be better answered as a time rather than distance question.   Generally the further you get from a city, the lower the prices become and more private the lots become.
  • ACTIVITIES NEARBY – How you like to spend your spare time will determine what works for you.  If you are an avid skier or hiker, being closer to those activities may be more important than the distance to a symphony or shopping.
  • RULES AND RESTRICTIONS – If it is a subdivision, are there association by-laws and deed restrictions?  Do such restrictions provide the protection you wish for this investment?  Do they meet with your value system?  Remember, a large square footage of a house does not mean that it will be attractive.  Would you be required to build, maintain and heat a building larger than you need?  If you want a large home, would you mind a smaller home next door?
  • TOWN AMENITIES – If you have school age children, check out the quality of the schools.
  • FEES AND TAXES – Look at the total cost of Association fees plus taxes.  What do the Association fees cover?  Are the roads town maintained or Association maintained.  We have one area in a town where the taxes are high but the Association fees are low.  In the next town over they are just the opposite with high fees and low taxes.  The total on both places are about the same.  In the first area, the town plows the roads; in the second, the Association does.
  • We have three subdivisions and they are 12, 20 and 30 miles from  Lewiston and Auburn, yet they each have an entirely different feel: Woodbury Bluff, Frost Homestead and Settlers Knoll.  FYI, there is only a 2o minute difference in the travel time from these same three areas to downtown Portland, Maine.

Be sure to look at future posts regarding the subjects of what to consider when it comes to soils, utilities, views, etc.

Land for sale for Retirement

Two categories of buyers that I often see are those who are looking for a place to build a house to retire to and those who are looking to build a 4-Season home that they will eventually retire to.

I find there are a few common themes that go into those decisions.  Primarily they are:

  • the distance to the activities they enjoy (hiking, skiing, boating, …),
  • distance to amenities (stores, hospital, churches, …),
  • feel of the setting (rural, remote, private but not isolated, …)
  • type of community the land is in (more laid back vs. more cultural activities).

If you are looking for a lot not within a subdivision, I have three of those in the rural town of Waterford.

If you are looking for the protection of being in a subdivision, I have three locations.  Though a few miles apart, because of their proximity to various sizes of towns, they help people narrow down their thoughts.

A more rural town and location is Settlers Knoll.  It has 4 and 5 acre lots and is in a quiet Western Maine town. Hospitals, doctors offices and larger stores are 10 miles or so away yet you are closer to the White Mountain National Forest and outdoor activities.

If you want to be just a couple of miles from a hospital, stores, coffee shop, golf, …, consider Frost Homestead.   It has 3 common tennis courts, a basketball court and 24 acres of common land an is very close to a New England village.  Frost Homestead is 8 miles closer to larger Lewiston and Auburn the Settlers Knoll is.

For those looking to be even closer to Lewiston and Auburn, Maine, Woodbury Bluff is midway (12 miles closer) to Auburn and Lewiston.

I also have a few lots that are not part of a subdivision, yet could meet one’s needs for a retirement lot.  Call me for details.

If you would like me to show you the difference between these three areas or share what I have noticed while showing many couples my land, please email or call me.

Tom Chadbourne, owner:  Tom@LandMaine.com, 207 653-9955

 

What affects land prices

The biggest difference in land value is where it is located.  Land near a city,  a resort, National Park, etc. will command a larger price than land in a common, rural town.  What I am addressing here are the differences in price in the same general area.

The basic ingredients to the relative value of land in the same area have to do with:

  • What is next door (a lake or a run down house, for example)
  • How does the land “feel”  (Have you even walked on a piece of land that just feels “right”?  I have.)
  • Views add value
  • Restrictions add value (if restrictions are important to you)
  • Roadside utilities
  • Easy access
  • Added amenities such as tennis courts add value to a neighborhood.
It really comes down to what is important to you, but more amenities increases the value, but only if they are of value to you.  A piece of land on a back road with no power and no view is worth much less than a lot that that is ready to build on.  But it comes down to what you want to do with the lot.  If you want a weekend getaway, you may not need electricity, or even the ability to drive to it in the winter.
Although views are great for resale value, if you are working on a limited budget, you may not need to pay for the added cost of a view.
In much of Maine, there are very few restrictions on what can be built on land.  If you are worried about what happens on the land next to yours, it may be worth paying extra for an area that has covenants.  Of course if you don’t want someone to tell you that you can’t have pigs in your back yard or you can’t have a mobile home on your lot, then it is important not to have restrictions.

It is amazing to see the difference prices for land in the same area.  In the past I have had land that was priced at priced under $30,000 for 4 or more acres and land that was price over $100,000 for less  than two acres – and they were in the same subdivision!  So why such a difference?  In this example the less expensive lot was on a town road with a limited building envelop (area in which you can build).  The other lot was in the center of the subdivision with exceptional views (Mount Washington, Norway Lake and rolling hills with farms marching off into the distance).  This is an extreme example, but it makes a point.

Generally, if you are not looking to buy a woodlot, the size of the lot has little to do with the value.  Even if you are looking for a woodlot, the value is more about how much wood is on it and what type and quality of the wood is.

There are subtle differences even within categories.  For example at Settlers Knoll I currently have  view lots within a few hundred yards of each other and they range from $75000 for 5 acres to $95,000 for 4 acres.  They all have the same restrictions, are on a paved private road  all have the same utilities.  The difference lies in the type of views and in one case, the lot has a well.  Also in that same subdivision, I have a 5.66 acre wooded lot for $39,000.  It all depends on what the lot has to offer and what your needs are.

If you have more questions about this, feel free to call me at 207 653-9955 or email me at Tom@LandMaine.com

 

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